PLOT: 2.5/5

“I have heard that story about crabs, about how crabs caught and held in a bucket pull down the ones trying to escape. That’s us, yes, that’s who we are…”

Ranbir Sidhu, Dark Star

I’ve been intending to read stories about Indian women, Indian characters that resonate with the woman within me. On the lookout for such a read while browsing on my Kindle, I stumbled upon Ranbir Sidhu’s Dark Star. What appeared to be a deeply emotional and passionate tale of an old woman turned out to be a sad disappointment—a mere skeleton of the intense story promised by the blurb.

Dark Star takes us to the decrepit and dusty room of an old woman living in Punjab. Our lady has lived a life where it has always been the men who decided her fate, dictated terms to her, taken ownership, and finally, as was quite the norm in those days, suffocated and oppressed her.

We see a woman who was born with exceptional talent; she was born as a girl who was much wanted in the entire village. She had the gift of psychic sight, which she eventually lost after stumbling upon the terrible horrors perpetrated during the partition of India.

But that was a long time ago; now she lies all alone, in her musty old bed, a woman who has lost all her power—not just her ability to walk and move but also her access to her own memories. And now she waits… waits to die, and while she waits, she also dreams.

Dreams of a time gone by, dreams of the dark insipid day she met her husband. Some memories she remembers, while others she fictionalizes, filling the gaps with her fractured yet vivid imagination. But during all this, she rants, stumbles, laments, remembers, ponders, and wishes to walk one day to New Delhi, to that realm of the powerful city, and tell the man who rules our country all the stuff that she really feels, feels strongly about.

Now, while the idea of the book itself is quite wonderful, what makes this book such a boring, insipid read is the fact that it’s very unstructured. Just like the thoughts of the old woman, the book too flows in every direction. I can understand how important it is, especially as the story is narrated in the first person, but the novelty of this soon wears off, and on and on the main character drones about this and that. Repeating many things along the way and not taking the story forward in any way.

I mean, there is so much scope for a great story and compelling narration here, but that has sadly been overlooked for some political brownie points. Instead of a fully fleshed story that told us more about the woman and her life, we get snippets of information that are more like rantings on patriarchy, misogyny, etc.

What’s more is that there is a lot of left-leaning narrative that keeps taking a dig at the current government, comparing Bharat’s democratically elected leader to a mass-murdering Nazi leader.

I mean, it never gets old, does it? These comparisons with Hitler? At least give us something fresh, something that isn’t typically out of an Indian leftist’s handbook. What’s even more disgraceful is the jab at Mrs. Indira Gandhi; the text reads like something bordering on anarchy.

“I did not think the mother of India is dead, I thought a woman who is also a killer is dead, and remember thinking that if I was a man I would have killed her myself, or thought of it, what is the good of being a man when you can’t kill someone who has killed so many others.”

If these are not sufficient, every other thing needs to be dragged in too—the farm laws, the Ram Janmabhoomi, etc.

Like seriously, how do such things get published anyway?

By the end of it, I was sick and tired of it all. 2 stars are all the book gets from me. Anything more than this would be a travesty.

If you wish to go ahead and read Dark Star yourself, you can buy a copy from the link below.